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Effectively communicating rejection

May 26, 2015
Posted at 12:57 am

Okay, look. I've been doing this author thing for quite a while now, and I'm fully aware that you can please some of the people most of the time, and all of the people once in a while, but that there will be people who don't like what you offer. I know that's a paraphrase of the famous saying, by the way.

So fine. You don't like what I wrote. Or what somebody else wrote. So what do you do?

Well, what I'd suggest first, is what you don't do.

Don't write a "feedback" email to the author saying something like, "Your story sucked! I voted it a two!"

Here's another one I don't recommend: "I usually read everything you write, but I didn't like this one."

Why not?

Well, for one thing, it doesn't do any good. It won't make the author change anything, and may encourage him (or her) to ignore you in the future. In other words, it's ineffective communication. It's a waste of your time. And it doesn't mean anything.

So what might work better for you? Well, if it's me, I want to know why you thought the story sucked and you gave it a two. Here are some examples:

1. "Your characters were shallow and uninteresting. I didn't care what happened to them. Tim was just mean, and I kept hoping he would die, but he didn't."

2. "Come on! I know fiction requires suspension of disbelief, but your plot is too unlikely and you never rationalized it. Had you said it happened in an alternate reality, and that this was science fiction, it might have helped.

3. "I'm sorry, but I know somebody named Pamela, and I don't like her, so I couldn't enjoy your character named Pamela.

4. You need to pay more attention to the names of your characters. You had a character named John, but called him "Henry" twice and I got confused.

5. The plot was too convoluted. There were too many sub plots and it got tedious trying to keep them all separate in my mind.

6. I had to make a character list to keep everybody straight. You should have done that for us.

Those are just a few examples of the kind of negative feedback that can actually help an author in his or her future endeavors. At a minimum, they allow for the start of a dialogue, in which good information may be exchanged. For example, if I got number three above, I'd write back and suggest that the reader download the story into MS Word or some other word processor and do a global search and replace, making "Pamela" into some name that the reader did like. That actually might help the reader have a positive experience.

If you're going to write negative feedback, that's fine. You have the right to do that. And negative feedback has helped me in the past.

But don't cry like a baby, yelling "Waaaaaaaaaaaa," and expect any author to give a flying fuck.

All that kind of thing is, is noise.

Don't waste your time. Be helpful.

Believe it or not, that's what most authors are actually trying to do. Please their readers.

Thanks for reading.